A new year in the cold: how can we play with this?

My wife and I spent our winter break exploring two places: Tibet and Harbin, China. Harbin is the location of the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, where they do some impressive work building with ice and snow to show off for the rest of the world.

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We spent our first day in Harbin's sub zero temperatures wandering around on the frozen river. The locals have confronted the fact that their local river freezes over with a simple question: How do we play with this?
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They have a number of simple answers.

From bumper cars, to ice slides, to team-driven ice sleighs...
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...to ice bicycles, complete with a hilariously ineffective brake pedal:
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The locals in Harbin have taken the brutal reality of their sub-zero temperatures (in both Fahrenheit and Celsius) and created some creative channels through which to enjoy that cold environment in ways that are enjoyable, cooperative, and unique.

The question "how do we play with this?" has become the organizing question for lessons in my classroom. I want to give students chances to explore, have fun, and work together in the process. Though I don't always do so, I think the pursuit is a worthy one.

This blog has been silent for a while, not for any negative reasons, but because the realities of organizing for my classroom and school have compelled me to put my energy in places other than structured reflection. I hope to do more sharing, more reflection, and give more appreciation toward the members of my personal learning network in the latter half of this year. I wish everyone a productive, enjoyable, and satisfying 2014.

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